Tracey F. Weisberg, MD, President and Lead Physician, New England Cancer Specialists
Food insecurity affects 15.8 percent of Maine residents, making it the third-most food insecure state in the nation. When staff at New England Cancer Specialists discovered their patients were among those in need, the practice initiated a partnership with a local food bank where patients can discreetly collect bags of groceries when picking up their medications at the pharmacy. This staff observation led to a new opportunity for an enhanced level of care coordination in their community oncology practice.
Like many Maine residents, Steven D'Amato, BSPharm, the executive director of New England Cancer Specialists (NECS), was surprised to learn about the prevalence of food insecurity in his state. D’Amato discovered the extent of the problem two years ago when he and a colleague attended a meeting for medical directors sponsored by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. Listening to a presentation by Maine’s Good Shepard Food Bank, the largest food bank in the state, D’Amato was taken aback by what he heard. “The numbers wowed us,” he recalls. “We learned that food insecurity is an issue in both rural northern Maine and in southern Maine, where the most populated, affluent areas are located.”
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Christian G. Downs, JD, MHA, ACCC Executive Director, Ali McBride, PharmD, MS, BCOP, ACCC President 2019-2020, Tracey F. Weisberg, MD, President and Lead Physician, New England Cancer Specialists, Randall A. Oyer, MD, ACCC President Elect 2019-2020
Food insecurity has become an increasing concern for Americans that healthcare providers can often overlook. It is not
associated with any one demographic group; anyone can become food insecure at any point in their life. The U.S. Department
of Agriculture defines food insecurity as the “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or
limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” In 2017 food insecurity affected 12.7 percent of the U.S. population; 15.8 percent of Maine’s residents experienced food insecurity that same year.
Our data revealed that 61 percent of
our male patients and 39 percent of our
female patients were food insecure. Our
results also revealed that food insecurity
impacted the entire age range of the
patients we serve, although the highest
percentage of food insecure patients are
were 50 to 59.
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